Women’s History Month – Exploring and Celebrating Women in the Law

Women in long coat with briefcase walking through door with title Women's History Month

As March nears its end, and another Women’s History Month comes to a close, we at Sinas Dramis Law Firm wish to take a moment to not only recognize the tireless efforts of the many women that make up the Sinas Dramis team, but to explore the larger topic of women in the law and celebrate their many achievements. In an article skillfully penned earlier this month for Women Lawyers Association of Michigan, Lansing personal injury lawyer, Lauren Kissel, states

From the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg to the election of Kamala Harris as the first female Vice President of the United States, the past 12 months have held a lot of highs and lows for women… Now more than ever it is important to support our fellow women lawyers. The year 2020 and the Covid-19 pandemic have brought many challenges for all of us, especially for women. However, despite the challenges of the past year, women have accomplished so much and Michigan is fortunate to have so many strong women in positions of power.”

While the rate of women lawyers and female legal professionals is on the rise, many shocking disparities and inequities still exist in the legal industry at large. Below, we take note of a few of these important imbalances in hopes of encouraging a more equitable industry for women and other minority groups.

Statistics on Women in the Law

In 2016, women graduating from law schools outnumbered men for the first time. The statistic has remained fairly consistent in years since. In 2020, women accounted for 54.09% of all students in an ABA-approved law school, whereas men made up 45.70%, and those identifying as “other” increased from 13% to 20% from the year before.

Despite women accounting for more than half of recent law school grads, according to Statista Research Department, women only accounted for 37.4% of all lawyers in the United States in 2020. While this is a national statistic, Michigan’s bar admission rates reflect a similar trend – only 35.1% of all of the 35,000-plus active members were women in the 2019-2020 membership year. In negligence law, specifically, women accounted for only 22.9% of active State Bar Members in a recent study conducted in 2018.

While we have focused so far on women attorneys, lawyers are not the only professionals comprising the legal industry at large. Statistics pertaining to paralegals and legal assistants reveal an even further divide between the genders. According to LinkedIn, these support roles are filled by women 87% of the time.

These statistics beg the question – why are so many more women concentrated at the support level in law firms? Why are so many women graduating from law school, yet active participation in state bars reveals a startling drop-off? Why do the inequities divide even further amongst senior-most legal positions? While the statistics reveal many overall inadequacies within the legal industry, they reflect upon larger disparities experienced by women and minority groups professionally, and the factors behind such inequities are vast and complex. Additionally, the last year has compounded the issue even further for women in the workforce.

Covid-19’s Impact on Women in the Workforce

Every family around the world has been impacted in some way by the Covid-19 pandemic. While the challenges have felt insurmountable for many, these issues have particularly impacted women in the workforce, including the legal industry. From the routine demands women already experience working in the law, to the added pressures of working remotely, juggling childcare, establishing makeshift workspaces, and educating children, 2020 has been a year like no other for women. In fact, one recent study found that nearly a quarter of all working women are considering scaling back their career or leaving the workforce entirely to meet the new demands placed on their children and family. In the last year alone, nearly 3 million women have already had to leave the workforce due to Covid-19.

Such a mass exodus could have detrimental impacts on future career outlooks for women for years to come. According to a 2020 interview on the subject, the effects of so many women leaving the legal profession at once could set working standards and pay back by “5 years, 10 years, or an entire generation” based on how many women are disproportionately leaving the industry currently – a rate four times higher than their male counterparts. A 2019 Report on Diversity in U.S. Law Firms backs this viewpoint, noting a similar period of decline in female associates at law firms during the 2008 Great Recession, the losses of which had just begun to bounce back before the pandemic’s onset.

However, despite somewhat grim statistics and recent trends, all is not lost. In fact, Michigan recently experienced its own historic boom in women in the law and other positions of leadership.

Recent Historical Wins for Michigan’s Women Leaders

From our Governor to our Secretary of State and Attorney General, women in positions of leadership are changing Michigan. For the first time ever, the Michigan Supreme Court is comprised of a majority of women, including Chief Justice Bridget M. McCormack, Justice Elizabeth T. Clement, Justice Megan K. Cavanaugh, and Justice Elizabeth M. Welch. These examples serve as a hopeful signal that trends are shifting for good in our home state for Michigan’s working women, specifically in the legal industry.

Our Firm’s History – Made Possible by the Efforts of Many Women

Sinas Dramis has thrived with the support and tireless efforts of the many women who comprise our team. From our women attorneys to our female administrative and support staff, the successes we’ve experienced and wins we have achieved for our clients would not be possible without women. Truly – women are the unsung heroes of this law firm. Our largely female staff is dedicated not only to the efforts of our firm, but to the communities we serve and the clients we advocate for. Every successful endeavor the firm undertakes, a woman has had a hand in brainstorming, planning, organizing, managing, and executing. Our firm would not be the Michigan-wide legal presence it is today without the skills, expertise, acumen, and dedication of the many women who comprise our team, today and throughout the years.

We know these statistics and trends show there is still much work to be done. We, as a firm, are committed to continually improving internal working standards for all of our employees, in addition to encouraging the successes of all women and celebrating their achievements and successes. We wish to thank all of our women team members and extend a Happy Women’s History Month to women everywhere!